GIVING THANKS: A 2020 survival guide


Enter His gates with a song of thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, bless and praise His name. For the Lord is good; and His mercy and lovingkindness are everlasting, His promises endure to all generations. Psalm 100:4-5 

Its that time of year when we gather around the family table. We share food and conversation and remember all the things we are thankful for.  Whether the table is overflowing with tasty treats or it’s a simple meal, thanksgiving is a time we gather together with those we love. It’s the time we celebrate all our blessings. At least that is how we normally celebrate Thanksgiving. With COVID making a resurgence, Thanksgiving is looking a LOT different for many of us. 

Despite the changes COVID may have made in our celebrations, we need to hold onto thankfulness with everything we got. It is in times of challenge and grief that the true power of thankfulness emerges. When life takes a hard turn, thankfulness becomes a vital survival skill. Giving thanks changes our perspective. Thanks-giving opens the door for hope to enter in. Hope opens the door for the power of God to work in our lives.  

Though it may be hard to see in the midst of the mess that COVID is, there is much to be thankful for. Not the least of which is the goodness, mercy and lovingkindness of our God. Through out His word, God declares His love and devotion to us. He assures us that He will protect us. He promises He will never leave or forsake us. He will never let His righteous fall.  God is a keeper of promises to all generations.  He vows to walk with us through all life’s difficulties. He gave His son to die for our sins. He wouldn’t invest so much unless He planned on protecting His investment. His power is ALWAYS at work on our behalf!  

When it feels like the things we have come to cherish and rely on are being ripped from us, we need to remind ourselves to give thanks for what God is doing in the midst of the pain. Even when we don’t yet see the evidence of it, God is ALWAYS working on our behalf.  He IS faithful to keep His promises. It is an act of faith to stand on those promises in the face of chaos. It is only by standing in His promises that we will be able to receive them. The amazing thing is, embracing God’s promises before we see them is actually what enables us to stand and to remain standing when everything around us is falling apart. 

The full power of thanksgiving can never be overstated. When the worry and anxiety of all that is happening our world comes crashing in, remember to bring it all to the one who loved us enough to sacrifice His own life for us. Release the cares and worries to Him in prayer with thanksgiving and watch the windows of heaven open up as God pours out the blessing of His promises on us, His beloved. Knowing that He has our situation in hand can bring us a peace that reassures our hearts that all will be well.  

So what do you have to be thankful for this thanksgiving? Whatever it is, lift it high in an offering of praise to the one who loves you unconditionally and literally died to give you everything needful for life and godliness. 

DEALING WITH DISCOURAGEMENT: A 2020 survival guide


I started my 2020 survival guide with the post “Faith, Hope and Love.” It was followed in short order by “Finding Faith”, “Building Faith” and “Walking by Faith”. It was time to start writing about hope. Yet every time I sat down to write, the words were like a classroom of unruly 2-year olds on a massive sugar high. IF I could find the words, I couldn’t get them to sit still long enough to form a coherent sentence.

The truth is, I was having trouble writing about hope, because I was having trouble finding hope. I had already hit the proverbial wall with the COVID situation. Social distancing and being separated from family and friends had worn thin. Then came the murder of George Floyd. That was more than I could handle. In the wake of all 2020 had dished out I found myself struggling with a onslaught of negative emotions.

I don’t experience discouragement often. This time however, I just couldn’t shake off the negative emotions that were overwhelming me. I found myself getting ground down by 2020 and all its fallout. I was relating a little too much with Job’s outcry; “Where now is my hope?Will it go down with me into Sheol? Shall we go down together in the dust?” (Job 17:15.)

We are facing a LOT of challenges. Apart from the health concerns, there is the financial impact of all this on families, businesses and the country. There is tremendous uncertainty about what life will be like on the other side of COVID. The stresses on marriages and families can be overwhelming. There are arguments about everything from public health and safety versus economic recovery, to the ‘correct’ response to racial injustice. These arguments are being expressed at VOLUME. Conflict is everywhere. People are angry. Some are expressing their anger violently. It’s all disheartening! It steals hope.

What do we do when hope feels this elusive? 

No matter how long all this lasts or how tough it gets, our answer is in the LORD and His promises! 

“So now we must cling tightly to the Hope that LIVES WITHIN US, knowing that God ALWAYS keeps His promises!” (Heb. 10:23) emphasis added 

PROMISE #1 – He is our hope.

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him,” (Lam. 3:25).  He has good plans for us, plans for hope and a future of hope and prosperity (Jer 29;11) 

When I started asking Why are you downcast O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?”, the answer was Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God”(Ps. 42:5).

We can face the challenges and uncertainties with confidence by trusting God “with all our heart.” When we lean on His understanding rather than our own, we have the assurance of His wisdom. “He will direct and make [our] path[s] straight and plain.” (Prov. 3:5-6) 

PROMISE #2 – He is our refuge.

“God is our Refuge and Strength, mighty and impenetrable. A very present and well proved help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1)

When we begin to feel hopeless in the face of all the stresses and uncertainties of 2020, we need to seek the refuge that can be found in God alone. His compassions are new every morning and his faithfulness is unending! (Lam 3:22-23P)

PROMISE #3 – He is our comfort.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the GOD OF ALL COMFORT, who comforts us in ALL OUR TROUBLES so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4) emphasis added

We can find comfort and consolation for the losses and disappointments 2020 has brought in its wake because Jesus is a High priest who KNOWS and UNDERSTANDS our human frailty and needs, from the inside out. Because He has shared in our weaknesses and infirmities, He knows what we are going through. (Heb. 4:15) When we seek comfort in Him, we can learn to be content in all circumstances because in Him, we will know the secret of facing any circumstance, even 2020. (Phil 4:11)

 

 

WATER FOR A THIRSTY SOUL

Photo by Daniel Watson from PexelsPhoto by Daniel Watson


I love rain. I love the sound, the smell. I love standing in a gentle rain on a warm summer day.

Listening to the patter of rain on my porch I began to contemplate the nature of water. Water is really amazing stuff.  You can drink it, wash in it, use it to put out fires. It makes plants grow and carves canyons through solid rock. It’s as tiny as a drop of rain and as big as the ocean. It’s a gentle shower or a mighty torrent overwhelming everything in its path.

Water is crucial to our survival, more critical than food. A human being can go about three weeks without food. We will only last three DAYS without water. Water sustains life. We spend the first part of our lives floating in it as God knits us together in our mother’s womb.

Water can take life as well. I lived near the beautiful Clear Creek River, a crystal-clear river flowing down from the peaks of the Colorado Rockies. It’s as dangerous as it is beautiful. It runs fast and the current is strong. In addition, the river hides boulders and pockets of strong undertow. Every year someone would disappear on the river only to reappear days later when the river’s under tow released their bodies. As much as I was in awe of the beauty of that river, I had a healthy respect for its power.

The nature of water is similar to the nature of God. He is water for the thirsty soul. He washes us through the Word until we are as white as snow. He quenches the flaming arrows of the enemy. He causes our faith to grow. He carves through the stony heart of sin to restore the years the locus ate. He is the still small voice and the creator of the universe who flooded the earth and shakes its foundations.

He sustains our lives. Going more than three days without Him can be deadly. He desires a relationship with us that is as intimate and vital as our relationship to the water in the womb. When we come to know God, we are in awe of His beauty and have a healthy respect for His power.

This is a season where understanding the nature of God can truly be water for a thirsty soul. As things change on a seemingly daily basis it can feel like being swept away in the current of a strong river. The stresses of working from home and managing children, family and finances in this COVID dominated atmosphere can feel like being sucked into an undertow. The pressure on marriages can increase the frequency and intensity of marital conflict until it feels like you have slammed into a hidden boulder.

Thankfully we have a God who able to care for our needs no matter the season. If we place our trust and hope in the Lord, we “shall be like a tree planted by waters which spreads out its roots by the river and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green”. We need not be “be anxious in [this] year of drought, nor will  [we] cease from yielding fruit” (Jer. 17:8 NKJV). When we believe in Him “rivers of living water will burst out from within [us], flowing from [our] innermost being just like scripture says!” (John 7:38 TPT)